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PASH and the Changing Coastal Environment
By Robert Thomas @ 2:01 AM :: 1424 Views :: Land Use

New Article: "Takings, PASH, and The Changing Coastal Environment" (U. Haw. L. Rev., forthcoming)

by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation, June 9, 2021

Back in February, we were honored to be part of the University of Hawaii Law Review's symposium "25 Years of PASH," a retrospective of one of the Hawaii Supreme Court's most famous (or infamous) decisions, Pub. Access Shoreline Haw. v. Haw. Cnty. Plan. Comm’n, 79 Haw. 425, 903 P.2d 1246 (1993), cert. denied sub nom., Nansay Haw. v. Pub. Access Shoreline Haw., 517 U.S. 1163 (1996) (PASH). 

At the conference, we spoke on the panel about "PASH and the Changing Coastal Environment" (see video here at the 2:02:25 mark if you want to watch our panel's summations).

The speakers also produced short written comments for the Law Review's upcoming issue, and ours is finally in a shape where we think it is OK for public consumption, so we've posted it on SSRN here (or you can download the pdf "Takings, PASH, and the Changing Coastal Environment").

For those of you not totally tuned in, in the PASH case the Hawaii Supreme Court concluded that subject to certain qualifications, the Hawaii Constitution allows native Hawaiians to exercise traditional practices, even on private property, and that "[o]ur examination of the relevant legal developments in Hawaiian history leads us to the conclusion that the western concept of exclusivity is not universally applicable in Hawaii." Yes, the right to exclude is not "universally applicable" in the 808. Let that one sink in. (The U.S. Supreme Court denied the takings cert petition.)

From the Introduction:

The topic of this portion of the Symposium is “Takings and the Changing Coastal Environment” and in this comment I focus on the “takings” part of that title, as well as offer some thoughts on our guiding subject, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s decision from a quarter-century ago in PASH, which most famously noted “that the western concept of exclusivity is not universally applicable in Hawaii.” How might this statement be considered today through the lens of property law and property rights, especially if we account for the changes in the U.S. Supreme Court’s approach to takings in the time since PASH was decided? And what implications does PASH have, if any, for property rights in the coastal zone?

This comment is in three parts. Section I summarizes the PASH opinion, and concludes that the jurisdictional questions presented in the case should have resolved the case, and the court should have avoided the takings questions, and the court reached out to resolve an issue it need not have. Next, Sections II, II, and IV offer up my three main criticisms of PASH, the first on the court’s seemingly incomplete view of how Hawai‘i property law treated the right to exclude, the second on whether defining “property” for purposes of federal takings analysis is only a matter of state law, and the third on separation of powers. Finally, Section V concludes with some thoughts about how courts should consider property rights in a changing coastal environment in light of these criticisms of PASH.

The entire symposium issue should be pretty worthwhile reading, if the conference itself is any indication. Good stuff.

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